In 2006, the latest year for which data are available, the world's child mortality rate (the annual number of deaths among children under five per 1,000 live births) dropped to 72, a 20-percent decline since 1990. For the first time since recordkeeping began in 1960, annual child mortality fell below 10 million, to 9.7 million, which was less than half the number who died before reaching five in 1960. Despite the steady decline, however, disparities between and within regions continue to grow. In the poorest households in developing countries the annual rate is 107 deaths per 1,000 live births; the overall rate in industrial nations is 6 deaths per 1,000 live births,
A number of countries in Latin America, such as Cuba and Chile, have lowered their child mortality rates by more than 50 percent since 1990 and are more than halfway to cutting them by two-thirds, the target set out in the Millennium Development Goals. But the mortality rates of Haiti and Bolivia are more than twice the regional average, and indigenous children living in both urban and rural areas in Latin America face a greater risk of dying before their first birthday than non-indigenous children.
South Asia has reduced its under-five mortality rate from 123 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 83 in 2006. Nevertheless this region had the second-highest number of deaths among under-five children--roughly 3.1 million--and accounted for 32 percent of the global total. Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India account for half the world's undernourished children, despite having just 29 percent of the developing world's under-five population. Afghanistan's child mortality rate was 252 for the 2002-05 period, the third-highest in the world. Compared with the regional average of 1 child death for every 12 children, in Afghanistan 1 child dies for every 5 children.
Sub-Saharan Africa has made the least progress in reducing child mortality rates. On average, its under-five mortality rate was 160 deaths for every 1,000 live births in 2006, an improvement from its 1990 rate of 187. Some countries in West and Central Africa, however, have made no progress, and some nations (Cote d'lvoire, for example) reported increases. Only 22 percent of the world's children are born in sub-Saharan Africa, yet the region accounts for 49 percent of the world's...